I started writing for ourmshome.com a little over a year ago. And at that time, I was asked to contribute to a project about the writers that at one point were reporters for the Mississippi Press that were now writing for our website, But I politely opted out.
I did so, in part, because I somehow held out hope that the print edition of the daily newspaper that I at one point in my life held in such high esteem would rebound and become a vital part of the community once again.
But that will never be the case. The end is here. And the Mississippi Press is going away forever.
The current version of the printed Mississippi Press is nothing more than a shell of its former self and it has been for more than a few years now. But before that, it was for many years an institution in Jackson County and some surrounding areas. That printed issue every day was an integral and vital part of our community.
- The Mississippi served South Mississippi for many years as a vital source of daily news, sports and entertainment.
I grew up in the nonaffluent section of Moss Point in the early 1970s. My parents were exceptional providers for our family, and I was most appreciative. But back then, there were no video games, no internet or cell phones obviously, only a few TV stations that I was barely allowed to watch and several weeping willow trees lining the backyard that was always standing strong in case I needed my attitude adjusted.
My escape, back then, in addition to playing sports, was the daily delivery by a carrier of The Mississippi Press each day when it was shoved into our yellow tube of a newspaper box that was attached to the same pole my dad built in the front yard just below our mailbox.
As a kid, I didn’t realize what the mailbox meant to my family, but I certainly knew what it meant when I saw that the elongated paper rolled up and encased with a single rubber band nestled into that yellow cylinder.
That my Mississippi Press newspaper was here. And, all was, at that moment, well with the world.
Let me be clear here, it wasn’t actually “My Mississippi Press”. My father, Braxton Currie Rockwell Sr., “Rocky” to those involved with the United States Navy, and “B.C.” to those that attended Kreole Avenue Baptist Church, was always supposed to be the first to read the daily paper every day. My beloved mom, Mary Lou Rockwell, made sure of that process. Well, sort of.
She and I developed a strategy in which I could take the rubber band off and read the sports pages while she perused both the news and lifestyle sections and then put the entire package back together before my dad got home from the shipyard. Then, he and she would take it into the backyard with two cups of hot coffee and read it under several fig trees that lined the small ditch in the farthest part of our property, even at times in the brutal heat of the South Mississippi summer.
My dream job, at an early age, was to work for that newspaper. And I did.
At one time, believe it or not, back in the heyday of daily newspapers, the Mississippi Press was the third or fourth-largest publication in the great state of Mississippi. This might not sound that great, but we were behind only the three “metropolises” of Jackson, Tupelo, and Biloxi-Gulfport.
In my early 20s, before I joined the staff, one of my favorite late-night activities was to visit Thunder’s Tavern or Castaways on Saturday nights and then end up at The Annex around 2 A.M., to order food but more importantly, grab the freshly printed Sunday edition of The Mississippi Press out of the paper box out front that contained all of the sports news from both Friday night and Saturday.
I’ve always been a lover of getting “ink on my fingers”, and as my career in journalism continued to develop I became the only sportswriter to be employed full-time at one point by all four daily newspapers in South Mississippi; The Mississippi Press, The Sun Herald, The Hattiesburg American, and The Picayune Item.
I always made a point of stopping in any city or town I drove through and putting quarters in the paper box to obtain that day’s copy of their local product. And that habit can completely be blamed on the reading of The Mississippi Press as a youngster.
My time spent on Delmas Ave., in Pascagoula helped shape my life as an adult, even though I was working covering kids in prep sports. I was employed for almost 15 years with that publication, 10 years at the old daily newspaper, and almost five more some 15 years later with the online product when it reduced to three print issues per week.
Back in the day, I was fortunate enough to cover several Super Bowls, a National Championship game in college football, a College World Series and an NCAA Final Four. All while representing the daily newspaper in little ole’ Pascagoula, Mississippi.
Not to mention multiple state championships in various prep sports across the years.
I will always be eternally grateful to those who enabled that for me.
I came to know Mark Bryant personally through some fellow friends when I was a football player at Ole Miss. At times when I came home, I joined some friends to play recreational basketball, and even though Mark and Mike Wixon had covered my career at Moss Point High School and into college, Mark and I struck up a friendship.
At some point, I told Mark that I thought I might like to try and write some sports, so he sent me to an Ocean Springs-Forrest County AHS first-round state softball playoff game in the mid-1980s.
I will always, even after all of these years, consider Mark my mentor in Journalism.
Six months ago, ourmshome.com created 228Sports.com in order to bring back the daily sports coverage of prep sports in the “Southern Six” counties of Mississippi that our athletes deserve, much like the Mississippi Press did back in the day. If you haven’t taken a look at it yet, give it a try soon, please.
I met another Mark during my time at the Press, Mark Odom. Odom’s dad Doyle was the physical plant director for the paper for about three decades. When Mark Odom joined our team upstairs in the finance department, he and I became immediate friends about 30 years ago and we still talk several times a week to this day. Mark, myself, and top-notch newswriter Rob Holbert soon became a trio that spent many a night together traversing throughout South Mississippi in search of fun and live music. In the words of Pascagoula’s one Jimmy Buffett, “Oh, the Stories we could tell”.
Mark’s mom and Doyle’s wife, Lochia, died recently. And ironically enough, her obituary was listed in Friday’s penultimate issue of The Mississippi Press.
And the rest, as they say, is history. Just like our beloved Mississippi Press will be after Sunday. And I, for one, will always treasure the memories of being a part of it.
Curtis Rockwell is the Sports Director of 228Sports.com and the Executive Director of Grand Magnolia Music.